You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2013 03 28Article 269239

Opinions of Thursday, 28 March 2013

Columnist: Anzagra, Solomon

Sanitizing Ghana’s Public Sector

: The Imperative for a Complete Attitudinal Overhaul

The impact of the productivity of Ghana’s public sector cannot be undermined. It is truth universally acknowledged that the socio-economic challenges of any country can be tackled and handled by any government only with the full support and cooperation of the public sector. Across the world, the public sector is considered a major employer, major provider of services in the economy and consumes a chunk of the consumer tax resources. According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census, 740,000 workers are found in the public sector. In fact the wage bill has escalated from 2 billion to a whooping 7 billion after the transfer of 90 percent public sector workers to the Single Spine Salary Structure. President Mahama on 4th January 2013 made a stunning revelation that an enormous 60 percent plus of national revenue goes into payment of public servants in his presentation of the state of the nation’s address. This means less than 40 percent of the total national revenue goes into direct and actual production and provision of goods and services as well as dealing with the numerous problems of education, health, water and sanitation, energy etc.
These facts notwithstanding however, it appears the commitment and capacity of the public sector to help in the management and development of the country is in qualm. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Structural Adjustment Programme recommended for the country by the Britton Woods Institutions was mainly informed by a non-performing and lousy public sector. Hence the suggestions such as privatization, deregulation and fiscal discipline. Today all points to the fact that we are relapsing to the pre-SAP period. The sector is currently bedeviled with issues pertaining to corruption, absenteeism, incessant bureaucratic processes, poor customer care, low morale and motivation, lack of strategic planning, lack of entrepreneurial skills and negative work ethics leading to low performance and woeful output. No wonder we keep dwindling with our score of the Corruption perception index and now at a record high of 4.5/10 score level according to the Transparency International’s 2012 ranking.
What is most disheartening is the number of weeks or even months one spends chasing a public servant for a dutiful endorsement, signature or information for a venture or engagement that may eventually benefit the whole country. Public servants still spend a good deal of time watching movies, movie seasons and series for hours in offices, working lotto or reading dailies at the expense of work and service.
Some police officers still collect driver’s expired Driving License and remove a GHC1.00 or GHC2.00 note without proper examination of documents such as the driver’s license, road worthy certificates or insurance documents. The same car is involved in an accident, may be out of brakes failure or incompetent driving, the police is called upon to investigate into the cause of the accident. What will be the findings? Think about it!
A cursory look at the education sector of the country reveals so many issues that undermine its long held credibility and integrity. Entrance into the colleges of education and nursing training would be difficult without corruption or engaging the services of family members and influential persons in society, popularly known as “whom you know”. What factors contribute to the huge components of SHS school fees when we are thinking of a progressively free SHS education?
Indeed gone are the days when our teachers and other educationists could cover wearing distances to schools to teach out of pride, patriotism and sheer commitment, sacrifice and love for one’s country and profession. Today, teachers threaten and even embark on strikes at a very material moment and turning points of the lives of the pupils they (teachers) themselves have suffered to bring to such end on grounds of agitation for better conditions of service. Simply put, sacrifice the future of pupils at final exams as bait to coerce government for better service conditions. They might be justified for such actions, and it is undoubted that there might be good reasons for such, what about the innocent child at the center of the tussle?
The health service is considered a sensitive area since it caters for the physical wellbeing of the populace. A visit to the major hospital reveals a rather disheartening view where patients are shouted at by nurses who think they have had enough of the patients. Patients in hospitals are treated like “kids” due to their inability to conform to the demands by nurses. This sometimes ends up degenerating the condition of such patients and they go home more devastated than before. The National Health Insurance Scheme has had its fair share of the public sector quagmire. Health service providers abuse and manipulate the system to meet their egotistic needs rendering it almost unsustainable. Mission Hospitals and relevant private health service providers threaten of refusal of provision of service under the NHIS.
Our energy sector may justifiably need resource injection, and the inherent challenges within the sector lamented by government continually. But all point to the fact that the sector can do better. At least if it is power rationing, residents can be notified for such and when they should expect a blackout. This does not require a physical resourcing or financial engineering to be undertaken but either administrative commitment or technical competence to get done. The amount of unannounced and unexpected blackouts in our communities of late simply gives every reason for complain. Household gadgets breakdown and machines destroyed. One does not need to be a medical expert to know that drugs in pharmaceutical shops get rendered impotent because they need to be kept at a particular temperature to keep their viability using energy. The impact of our current dwindling energy sector is indeed enormous. What however surprises is the lack of blackouts at certain residents or vicinities known to be occupied by the elite and influential in society. Or even if a blackout occurs it takes just minutes to get power restored. May be, it only serves as a motivation for the subjugated to strive hard enough to also get to such status.
On our water and sanitation sector, reports of treatment of water with unwholesome chemicals are numerous and the impact on society, only God knows! Engineered public landfill sites have turned into unimaginably nasty sites of garbage. We have to begin somewhere!
Indeed Ghana may not need a repeat of the Structural Adjustment Programme because its consequences in this century may be simply unbearable. What we urgently need is what can be termed Attitudinal Adjustment Programme which will seek to impart in the public servant a sense of relentless patriotism and commitment to national progress no matter ones position or profession. This is just but a few of the challenges and ills bedeviling the Ghanaian public sector and needs serious attention if the country will move forward.
First and foremost, Results Based Programming approaches must be explored and possibly employed in the public sector. The traditional long term service and experience basis of promotion of public servants popularly known as “MBA-Me Baha Akye” must give way to results, commitment and achievement based promotion. This will bring out the best in the public servant for citizens to reap the full benefits of their taxes paid to such public worker.
The country might need to move from the current salaried mode of remuneration to wage based remuneration as much as possible with the help of appropriate policy interventions. But for the sector not to be turned into a mess decorum and high sense of responsibility must be employed
There is the need to Inculcate in the Ghanaian public servant a renewed zest and zeal for national forward match. The country has been backward for far too long. Let our public servants rise up. Blaming it on the politician is not the solution. No politician or government can turn this country up or down without the consent or collaboration of the public sector. Not even our resources and natural endowments can move us forward without the right attitude.
To be a competitive player in the 21st century globalized economy, the sector needs to be characterized by preparedness, mental and attitudinal reorientation at the work place and a sense of urgency and dedication to duty. Also the public sector must be result oriented in problem solving and demonstrate a high level of customer care and more cost consciousness. These can help us move forward as a country.

Solomon Anzagra (sanzagra@yahoo.com) and Samuel Appiah Adjei (appiahadjei281@gmail.com)
KNUST-KUMASI, GHANA- W.AFRICA